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6 Reasons Why You're Struggling To Stay On Track As A Business Owner


Barnaby Lashbrooke

Founder and CEO of Time etc, author of The Hard Work Myth

8 minute read

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Running your own business is exhilarating, rewarding, and full of endless possibilities.

But it's hard to capitalize on these opportunities and enjoy your journey if you're always feeling stressed, scattered, and struggling to keep up.

When you've worked so hard to get your business off the ground, feeling like you're constantly spinning your wheels instead of making progress is frustrating, to say the least.

Of course, the first step towards solving any problem is identifying its root cause. Here are six common reasons why you may be struggling to stay on track as a business owner.

1. You’re trying to do too much

When you’re just starting out as a business owner, you probably accept that wearing many hats is part of the job. But as your business grows and new projects pop up, more tasks demand your attention.

Doing everything yourself makes sense at first when you’re first starting out. There’s a sense of comfort and security in doing everything yourself because you are responsible for the outcomes. As the saying goes, “If you want something done right, do it yourself.”

It might seem like doing everything yourself is the only way to meet your high standards, this is only a shallow, short-term gain compared to what you could potentially lose by choosing quantity over quality.

Think about all the things on your daily and weekly to-do list, such as processing orders, sending emails, or updating listings on your website. Yes, these tasks are essential for keeping your business going, but if you're always stuck doing the same repetitive tasks, when will you find the time and energy to focus on the big things that can really help your business grow?

“Whenever I get the time… Once my schedule calms down… I’ll get around to it soon…”

But the truth is, if you're handling everything on your own, that time you're waiting for will never magically appear. You'll just keep falling further and further behind, without making progress on the things that truly matter.

There are only so many hours in the day, and you can’t be everything to everyone.


Time etc's 2023 study: The Big Price Of Small Tasks: How Entrepreneurs May Be Unwittingly Keeping Their Businesses Small, Hurting Bottom Lines And Compromising Wellbeing

2. You feel paralyzed by pressure

With so many different responsibilities, tasks, and deadlines to juggle, why is it that when we have the most to do, we feel the least able to do it?

Whether it's a bunch of tasks piling up or one big project staring you down, your brain just seems to freeze up like a deer caught in headlights.

Ellen Hendriksen, a clinical assistant professor at Boston University’s Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders, explains that this feeling of being stuck when faced with overwhelming tasks is part of the "fight, flight, or freeze" response. She says it happens when we see the tasks in front of us as threatening.

"Our bodies react the same way to threat, whether it's external, like a dangerous animal, or internal," she said. "When we have a long list of overwhelming tasks, the threat could be the fear of failing, of disappointing others, or of feeling incompetent because we're not sure where to start or how to do things."

Normally, our brain's planning and decision-making center, the prefrontal cortex, usually keeps our emotions in check. But when stress and anxiety hits, this balance shifts. Regions like the amygdala, which spots threats, start to take over, and our ability to think clearly and regulate our emotions can slip away.

See: 6 Stress Management Techniques From The World’s Most Successful Business Leaders

3. You experience completion anxiety

It's not just starting work that can be tough, but finishing it, too.

If you often find yourself stumbling at the final hurdle, or struggling to sign off or submit, completion anxiety may be the culprit.

According to psychologist Dr. Nathan Brandon, completion anxiety is the fear that you will not be able to complete a task, or that you will not perform well enough to meet the standards set by others.

For many business owners, the pressure to succeed can feel like an ever-present weight on their shoulders. And with so much at stake, this feeds the belief that there’s no option but to get everything just right.

You might be thinking, "Isn't this a good thing?" Well, while it's important to have high standards in business, unchecked perfectionism and fear of failure can end up doing a lot more harm than good.

The important thing to remember about perfection is how subjective, and often undefined, it can be in our minds. No matter how much we work on something, it might never feel quite right. If you leave the task unfinished, you miss deadlines and lose out on valuable opportunities. If you try to keep working on it until it truly feels "finished", you risk falling further behind.

Will spending all this extra time really make a big difference? Or are you just taking time away from other important things?

4. You lack proper organization

As a small business owner, being disorganized can really mess things up—in more ways than one.

When you have so many things to be thinking about at any given time, it can be all too easy for things to slip your mind (It’s hard to meet a deadline when you’ve forgotten you had one!) or for time to run away from us completely.

Getting organized doesn't just help you keep on top of things, it also helps you work better and faster. That might mean using tools to manage projects, setting up a schedule for what needs to get done, or keeping your workspace clean and tidy.

As the old saying goes, “A tidy home makes for a tidy mind”, but in fact, there may be more truth behind it than we realize. Experts have linked cluttered environments to poorer mental health and well-being, impaired cognitive skills such as visual processing and memory, and even unhealthier eating habits.

And when it comes to your virtual workspace, digital clutter can be just as distracting as a messy room. Duplicate files don't just make your computer slow, they slow you down, too. Scrolling through masses of documents in search of a particular item can be a real time-suck, adding unnecessary stress and frustration to your workday.


See: 5 Ways A Virtual Assistant Can Help You Get Organized

5. You're running on empty

Business owners are among the most hard-working and ambitious people on the planet. It takes a great deal of resilience to navigate this fiercely competitive business landscape and come out on top.

However, this can also be a double-edged sword. This unwavering dedication and commitment to your vision can make working nonstop and pushing yourself to the limit seem like part of the job description.

Do you ever find yourself forgetting to eat in the middle of a busy day? Do your mornings always feel like a constant battle to stay awake?

Let's face it, it’s hard to get anything done when you're fighting heavy eyelids and a growling stomach.

When you're full of energy, you can focus and finish tasks fast with fewer mistakes. But when your energy levels are low, your focus, motivation, and productivity can plummet with them.

Remember, your business relies on you as its leader, so taking care of yourself is crucial to its long-term success, too. It's essential to prioritise self-care and a healthy work-life balance, even when you're busy. Even if you're used to feeling exhausted and think you can handle it, this will eventually catch up with you and negatively impact your performance, decision-making abilities, and overall well-being.

See: How To Manage Your Energy Effectively To Achieve More In Your Business

6. You may have an underlying condition

Life is full of challenges, but for an estimated 1 in 7 of us, there are a few extra hurdles in the way.

If you're always feeling overwhelmed and finding it hard to keep on top of things, it might be a good idea to speak with a healthcare professional. They can help figure out if there's something else going on that's making things harder for you.

For example, ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder) affects more than 8 million adults, and an estimated 10% of entrepreneurs and small business owners. Sadly, this is thought to be just the tip of the iceberg, as a significant number of cases are thought to go undiagnosed. Some of the symptoms of ADHD in adults include difficulties with time management, focus, and procrastination.

And according to an often-cited study by the National Institute of Mental Health, 72% of entrepreneurs are directly or indirectly affected by mental health issues compared to just 48% of non-entrepreneurs. Depression is another common condition that can affect your productivity and motivation. Symptoms such as lack of energy, difficulty concentrating, and loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed can make it challenging to stay on top of everything.

Anxiety often goes hand in hand with ADHD and depression, and can also hinder your ability to focus and complete tasks. Symptoms such as restlessness, difficulty relaxing, and constant worrying can make it difficult to stay on track.

If you suspect that an underlying condition could be impacting your well-being and the success you're capable of achieving, it's important to address this as soon as possible. There's no fault or shame in having these conditions, but struggling on without any support, resources, or treatment you may need could lead to more ongoing challenges in both your personal and professional life.

See: Why Do Neurodiversity and Entrepreneurship Make Such Good Business Partners?


What's the bottom line?

It's no secret that staying on track with all your tasks, deadlines, and responsibilities is vital for long-term success. But for small business owners, this can be much easier said than done.

Taking the time to identify any underlying reasons for these challenges is an incredibly positive and empowering first step that's crucial in conquering these issues. Pinpointing these root causes will allow you to create effective strategies to streamline processes, delegate tasks, and increase productivity to help you get back on top and achieve your business goals.

It's all about finding the right balance where your health and business can thrive together, without sacrificing one for the other.

If you've been feeling paralyzed by having too many things to do and not enough time to do them, Time etc is here to help you strike that perfect equation.

Since 2007, we've helped over 22,000 business owners feel more organized and in control by matching them with the best virtual assistants for their needs.

Speak to our expert team to get started, and we’ll set you up with a dedicated professional who will help you keep on top of everything.

Or try a skilled virtual assistant for free today!

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About the author

Barnaby Lashbrooke is the founder and CEO of Virtual Assistant service Time etc as well as the author of The Hard Work Myth, recently recommended by Sir Richard Branson. Barnaby is a Forbes Columnist on productivity and is also an accomplished entrepreneur, selling more than $35 million worth of services.

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